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Workshops focus on basic income guarantee idea

The Guardian

Goal is to have community or area on P.E.I. pilot the concept

SOUTH RUSTICO — Work is underway to advance the idea of having a basic income guarantee tested as a concept on Prince Edward Island.

The Working Group for a Livable Income is hosting three open workshops on the concept across the province. The first was in South Rustico Tuesday night.

“There seems to be a bit of support from our provincial government at this point in terms of interest in the idea,” said Lori MacKay, of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which is a member of the working group .

She said the goal is to have a community or area on P.E.I. pilot the idea as a demonstration.

The group wants to come up with a plan that will run as a five-year project with 1,000 participants, along with a control group for comparison. If successful, the plan should be capable of scaling up to run in the whole province.

“It would bring people to a certain income level that is livable and sustainable and instead of it being a social program, you would have it more as a guarantee of an income,” said MacKay.

The Working Group for a Livable Income includes the Cooper Institute, P.E.I. Federation of Labour, P.E.I. People First and the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul, to name a few.

“We are still in the early stages of what this might look like so we certainly don’t feel like we have all the answers but it’s about bringing it to the community,” said MacKay. “We are starting the process of having conversations about what it might look like, then go from there.”

A similar pilot was done in Manitoba in the 1970s and, while successful, was not implemented beyond the pilot, she said.

The program would be administered through the tax system and be similar to the Child Tax Benefit, Old Age Security and other such programs.

In that way, it would move out of the realm of a social program with all

its cracks, pitfalls and demeaning processes, said MacKay.

The groups says that when a sustainable, livable income is provided to all residents there are fewer visits to the emergency room, fewer people sent to jail, workers stay in the workforce longer, plus other society-wide benefits.

“Social programs that exist today do not cover everybody’s needs and there is still lots of people living in poverty,” said MacKay.

A second workshop was held Wednesday in Souris and another is scheduled tonight in O’Leary.

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Philippe Latty
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The Guardian